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MarCom Matters

December 2010
Issue: #14

Creating Value and Trust

I’m a sucker for a free meal.
OK, it wasn’t exactly free. I did have to give a workshop on how to create a lead nurturing program. But that was it. My reward was a full breakfast, a stunning lunch and a cocktail hour with an hors d’oeurve table that went on forever. Who could ask for more?
The workshop was part of an annual learning and schmoozing conference hosted by CONNSTEP, a consulting group that helps Connecticut’s manufacturers get lean and mean.
Because I didn’t have to present until the last session, I got to spend most of the day wandering aimlessly–just like I do when walking around the mall looking for Christmas presents. What I really did though, was listen in on other marketing workshops.
During one particular session, the presenter told a story about a client of hers who had a long and onerous contact form on company’s website. You know, the kind that asks how much you make, your childrens’ birthdays and the name of the 1961 World Series MVP.
She went on to say that the client experienced an amazing 80 percent conversion-to-sales rate from the people who filled out the form.
“How can this be?,” you ask.
Well wait, there’s more…
At her request, the client tested a second, shorter, form asking only for name, email address and phone number. This form yielded a much lower conversion-to-sales. But that was in addition to the sales from the longer form.
In other words, the short form increased overall sales instead of just giving people the opportunity to provide less information about themselves.
“How can this be?,” you ask again, more impatiently. “And why would people give up more information than necessary?”
Wow, those are all excellent questions!
The presenter didn’t have an answer, so I’ll give you mine.
It’s an answer based in part on an email exchange I had a year ago with Dr. Mary Caravella, a business professor at the University of Connecticut who does research in this area.
Turns out that when confronted with a contact or other type of Web registration form, a prospective buyer will make a cost-benefit decision guided by a couple of factors:

1. How much do I really value what is offered–i.e., the white paper?
2. How much do I trust that this company won’t spam me or call me everyday, because I’m just not ready to buy now?

Using the workshop presenter’s example, leads who were further along in the buying cycle trusted the company and wanted to be contacted, so they willingly filled out the long form.

But given the alternative, why not fill out the short form? Because they wanted to look like good prospects to the sales department, so they provided all the information the long form requested. It’s the grownup version of “Pick me, pick me, pick me…”
On the other hand, leads in the earlier research phase of the buying cycle were likely more reticent and closed the browser window rather than fill out the long form. But the short form gave them the opportunity to minimize their information exposure while testing the trust waters.
The challenge for marketers, then, is to capture as much information as possible from people in different stages of the buying cycle who harbor different levels of trust.
Here are a few thoughts…

By creating a flexible and trustworthy website environment, you can capture leads who want your attention now and get a head start on the ones who are “just looking” but will buy down the road.

And in case you’re ever asked when filling out an online form, Whitey Ford snagged the 1961 MVP.